180 N. Michigan Ave is the address for Spanish Consulate in Chicago, where I finally got my visa today.
Getting a Schengen visa is the biggest difference about going to Spain between me and other American students with U.S. passports: for any stay in the Schengen region (Spain is among many of the countries in this region) that lasts less than 90 days, a U.S. passport holder would not need to obtain a Visa in advance, but a Chinese passport holder, like me, will need to do so.
So that’s what has been hanging in the back of my mind for the past month: I knew I needed to get it at some point, preferably a month prior so there’s enough time for the consulate officials to process the document. I knew to get the visa, I would have to schedule an appointment and be at the consulate myself, physically, to present the documents, which means I knew I would have to make a trip to Chicago, where it would take six hours to get to and six more hours to get back. If you ask me, that’s a trip I do not want to make. So I knew all I needed to do, I just didn’t act on it.
Well, it finally came down to this weekend when I realized, wait, if I don’t do it now, I don’t have a free weekend until, well, the weekend I actually needed to take off for Barcelona. So that has to be it, I need to go.
As you could figure, everything was put together fairly last minute: application, passport photos, bank statements, so forth and so on. What you need to know is visa process is not a new thing for me. I’ve done it myself for at least half a dozen times already. But let me tell you, it’s a scary process no matter how much experience you’ve had. Let me put it this way, there’s a possibility that a million different things could go wrong, and I only need one to screw up the whole process.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit exaggerating, since I did encounter some speed bumps at today’s appointment, and the result still turned out just fine. To start with, I filled out the wrong application form (I was supposed to fill out the Schengen one, not the Spanish national one). Besides, I also needed more itinerary information. But no major concerns and all easy fixes. After going in and out of these revolving doors for a few times and spending about two and half hours running around and panicking (not exactly, but you know what I mean), I finally got all those lovely (and correct) documents, along with my passport, in the hands of the consulate official.
When I left 180 N. Michigan Ave Monday morning at 11 a.m., the weather in Chicago was the sunniest I’ve ever seen.
Besides Visa, I’ve put down some other check marks on my Barcelona to-do list:
- Ticket, check! Ok, I guess just the ticket to get there, but I got a good deal on it, and I will be leaving and arriving all at very reasonable time, so let’s not worry about leaving Spain before we even get there, shall we?
- Connecting with friends, check! I talked to a Spanish buddy of mine who graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai and is now getting her graduate degree in Barcelona. We met at Cervantes Instituto in Beijing when we were both studying Spanish there. She will be working on her thesis nonetheless around my arrival time in Spain, but I promised her that I won’t be that big of a distraction, so she said she would show me around the city. Yay!! I also talked to Only, my middle school girl friend who is now studying architecture in Italy. I think I will be visiting her when I have time. With Expo this year in Milan during the summer, it’d be a huge miss-out if I don’t go when I’m practically there already. Also, my high school friend Ecko who goes to Furman University in SC, she may be going to Barcelona for a language program. Man, I’m just so excited about all these potentials of seeing my friends after many years. I’m expecting a picture or two! (or say a hundred?) And so should you!